What you need to know about proposals to extend Germany's partial lockdown until December 20th
State leaders in Germany are discussing plans to extend the shutdown ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Here's what you need to know.
Before the new federal and state consultations on Wednesday on how to proceed in the coronavirus pandemic, the 16 state premiers want to coordinate their line.
According to insider information, the heads of government have received a draft set of proposals from the head of the state premiers' conference (MPK), currently held by Berlin's Mayor Michael Müller of the Social Democrats (SPD).
In view of the high numbers of Covid-19 infections, an extension of the partial lockdown – which includes the closure of restaurants, bars, hotels, cultural and leisure facilities – is likely up until at least December 20th.
Here are the proposals:
RESTRICTIONS ON CONTACT: Residents in Germany remain called upon to avoid any unnecessary contact and to stay at home if possible. In order to further avoid contact, employers are asked to allow home offices without bureaucracy. The measures for November are to be extended nationwide until December 20th under the proposals.
States which have less than 35 new infections per 100 000 inhabitants within seven days and show a decreasing trend in this figure should be allowed to loosen measures before December 20th.
If no "significant" nationwide decreasing trend is achieved by that date, the measures would be automatically extended for 14 days until this target is reached.
PRIVATE CONTACTS: From December 1st to January 17th, the proposed plans provide for further considerable restrictions on private contact in order to ensure a reduction in the incidence of infection in the medium term.
Private gatherings with friends, relatives and acquaintances will be limited to your own household and one other household, but in any case to a maximum of five people. Children under 14 are to be exempt from this rule.
SPECIAL RULES FOR CHRISTMAS: In the proposals for Christmas, there are still gaps in the draft. But this topic will be discussed on Wednesday.
According to the ideas put forward, the upper limits for meetings inside and outside from December 21st to 27th are to be extended to meetings of one household with family members or friends from different households – up to a maximum of five people.
Alternatively, there is another idea to extend this period from December 21st to January 3rd and setting the limit to a maximum of 10 people. Children up to 14-years-old would be excluded in each case.
With this provision, "Christmas should also be possible in this special year as a celebration with a circle of family and friends, albeit on a smaller scale", the draft states. Wherever possible, before and after the holidays, people should self quarantine at home for several days. However, this rule is only formulated as an appeal.
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RELIGIOUS SERVICES: The federal government and states should seek dialogue with religious communities in order to reach agreements for church services and other religious gatherings with the aim of reducing contact. The aim is to avoid too many people gathering at once.
NEW YEAR'S EVE: Sale, purchase and lighting of fireworks should not be allowed this year, the draft document states. This is intended to relieve the burden on emergency staff and to keep the capacities of the health system free.
READ ALSO: Police and politicians in Germany call for ban on fireworks on New Year's Eve
FACE MASKS: As well as wearing them on public transport and enclosed public spaces, masks should also be mandatory in busy outdoor spaces.
These places should be determined by the authorities in each state. A mouth and nose mask should also be worn in workplaces – this should not apply if a distance of 1.5 metres to another person can be maintained.
HIGHER EDUCATION AND UNIVERSITIES: In principle, facilities should switch to digital teaching. Exceptions should only be made for lab work, internships and exams.
SCHOOLS: In future, pupils from the seventh grade upwards should wear masks in class. This would apply to pupils and vocational school students in regions with significantly more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days – which is currently the case in many places but not all. However, schools without coronavirus cases could be exempted from this rule.
A testing strategy is also proposed for schools: if a coronavirus case occurs in a class, the class should have to quarantine for five days together with the teachers concerned. On the fifth day, a rapid test should be available for everyone. If the test is negative, the class can return to school.
"In order to be able to apply this effective testing strategy across the board, the federal government (via the states) will make additional capacities of antigen tests available," the paper states.
Further measures, such as alternate teaching, is left up to the states. School trips and international exchanges are to remain prohibited. It is recommended that schools stagger the start of lessons.
HELP FOR BUSINESSES AND SELF-EMPLOYED: State aid for affected businesses is also to be extended until December 20th. These are essential for businesses and employees and an important element in ensuring that the necessary protective measures are widely accepted by the public, the paper says. Expenditure on this support in November is estimated at €15 billion.
It is also proposed to extend until mid-2021 aid measures for sectors which will likely have to face "considerable restrictions" in the coming months. These sectors include the culture and events industry, the solo self-employed and the travel industry.
TRAVELLERS RETURNING TO GERMANY: The draft proposes that domestic quarantine for returnees and contact persons should be uniformly set at 10 days as a rule, starting on the day of entry to Germany or the last day of contact.
READ ALSO: Germany introduces new quarantine and testing rules for travellers from risk zones
STATUTORY HEALTH INSURANCE: According to the draft, the states want to ask the federal Government what a tax-financed stabilisation of public health insurance contributions might look like, so that the costs caused by the pandemic in the health care system do not have to be cushioned solely by those with statutory health insurance. A solidarity surcharge, which would include members of the public covered by private health insurance, is mentioned as a possibility.
Who's agreed to these proposals so far?
According to DPA, Müller's proposals have so far been agreed by most states.
It means there could be some changes to the plans but it looks like on the whole they will be backed. Of course Chancellor Merkel will also have input. This is what Merkel had proposed last week.
Without going into details, Müller told the broadcaster ZDF that the proposal is much more long-term than the previous ones. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) told the Editorial Network Germany that the discussions on Wednesday had to give "the best possible perspective for the period until after the turn of the year".
Over the weekend, federal and state politicians prepared citizens for an extension of the contact restrictions, which initially run until the end of November.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said on Sunday the fact was "that we are not yet as far as we would have liked to go with the contact restrictions".
Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) said that in terms of the development of case numbers, we are not yet where we want to be. "And that is why everyone suspects that there will have to be an extension," he said.
Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CSU) said on broadcaster ARD that there was no reason to sound the all-clear. Therefore, the lockdown had to be extended and in some places – especially in the hotspots – it had to be tightened considerably.
Berlin's mayor Müller told DPA: "We agree that much has already been achieved, but not enough."